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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

HISTORY AS A BRANCH OF LITERATURE

not consider himself as belonging to this class, or intend
to write history as a partisan. But the effect was
palpable and showed itself—as was notably the,case with
Macaulay—in a readiness to apply historical criticism
to the evidence which came from enemy sources, while
it did not seem that there was the same pressure to probe
the quality of the testimony that came from one's own
side. This limitation in their work greatly facilitated
the task of the literary historians—particularly Macaulay,
Froude and Motley—for it enabled them to close their
eyes to complications and anomalies which would have
called for a reorganisation of the whole story. The pro-
cedure in fact leads to the evasion of the most challenging
historical problems, it encourages an over-dramatisation
of the issues, and it provides the stimulus of violent
contrasts, it produces that warmth and glow which so
easily come when we have identified ourselves with one
of the contending parties. Sometimes the supporters of
literary history have actually defended such partisan
writing on the ground that it so facilitates the task of
the historical writer, while impartial history is so much
more difficult to read with sustained interest.

Acton, in spite of his passion for scientific methods,
was ready to concede that partisanship and polemical
purpose had helped to contribute to historical under-
standing ; and it is true that these things have operated
to drive historians further than they would otherwise
have gone in the search for a reasonable explanation of
anomalous conduct on the part of the people they were
inclined to support. What is important to note,
however, is the fact that the defect in analysis, the weakness

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